Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Debt increasingly not in anyone's interest (rate)

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Each year, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce hires a polling firm to see what Canadians identify as their top financial priorities. And this year, the result is pretty much like last year -- paying down household debt is the top priority, with saving for retirement coming second.

Are those priorities right? Most would agree, although some might switch the order. A bigger problem is that many of us talk a better game than we play. It's similar to identifying the environment as a top priority, when in reality most of us don't live as if the environment is a priority, and don't seem to care that our federal government ignores the issue for the most part.

But there's trouble on the horizon. The economy is recovering faster than most thought it would, to the extent that the federal finance ministry says its surplus is shaping up to be bigger than anticipated.

That's good news, right? Yes and no. Yes, because killing the federal deficit ahead of schedule would be good. No, because strong economic growth typically triggers higher interest rates. And that debt we keep saying we want to pay off? It's a whole different problem when interest rates increase dramatically.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2014 A9

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